One of Juniata College’s goals as a liberal arts college is to give students an education that goes beyond their individual Programs of Emphasis and delves into other disciplines and areas. Two of these requirements are Interdisciplinary Colloquia (IC) and Cultural Analysis (CA). I am currently enrolled in the CA course Samurai Legends and Lives; this course seeks to examine the Japanese samurai in its historical and mythic contexts, but also to analyze how accurately these historical texts match up to the Hollywood and popular culture portrayals of this warrior class. On Monday, March 30 the class took a field trip to Washington, DC to see the cherry blossoms and to visit the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian to view some examples of Japanese art.
Leaving campus at 8:30 Monday morning, we began our trip to the US capital. We arrived and ate lunch near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to work against us and most of the cherry blossom trees have not yet bloomed. After lunch, there was time for exploring. My friend and I first walked to the Jefferson Memorial and went inside, since neither of us had been there before. After the Jefferson Memorial, we walked to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial where I got a picture with a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt. This statue was the first time that a first lady has been honored within a presidential memorial. After this, we walked back to the bus to travel to the Smithsonian museums.
In particular, we were visiting the Freer and Sackler Galleries. This subdivision focuses on Asian art and the class was looking to relate different artworks to the ideals and characteristics of the samurai. Some pieces related very directly, while others required more contemplation. Of course, after class business was complete, we were allowed to tour the remainder of the museum to see the art from other Asian nations. We later ended the trip with a meal at a Chinese and Japanese restaurant.
I had never visited Washington, DC before this field trip, but I had a lot of fun seeing some of the capital and visiting the galleries. Making connections between the art and what we have read in class helped to put our class discussions in context and added to our understanding of Japanese culture; it was a chance to do some cultural analysis outside the classroom setting. Now, I’ll be attending the course for the rest of the semester with an added appreciation for the culture that we’re studying.